Dealing with contestations and backlashes of gender equality in peacebuilding
At first glance, it appeared for many years that norm development in the area of gender-sensitive human rights was making steady progress. The interplay of the feminist/women's movements, gender-sensitive human rights conventions, and the WPS resolutions have evolved to date into a strategy consisting of norms and practices for gender-sensitive and -inclusive approaches to peacebuilding, such as women's participation in peace processes or outlawing gender-based violence (True and Wiener 2019). Despite this significant progress in norm-setting and norm-implementation of gender-sensitive human rights, there has always been resistance, both at the multilateral negotiation level and in the local implementation of gender-sensitive human rights.
Such resistance or "backlashes" can now be found everywhere in liberal democracies, and they also have an impact on the implementation of gender-sensitive norms in peacebuilding. A prominent example is certainly the Colombian peace treaty or the peace process in Afghanistan. However, such resistance does not always come from conservative Islamist or Christian groups, but also results, for example, from the rejection of a liberal understanding of human rights that produces specific colonial images of an uncivilized culture that oppresses women (Chishti 2020). The multiple manifestations of gender backlashes in the European Union have also become a core part of feminist research and related political activism (Sauer 2019; Kuhar and Paternotte 2017). This project brings together two strands of feminist research that have so far been treated rather separately: First, feminist research on, but also critique of, liberal peacebuilding; second, research on forms of resistance and so-called gender backlash with regard to gender-sensitive human rights. With this approach the project aims to examine how key stakeholders (donor states and their bureaucracies, development aid agencies, and nongovernmental organizations) deal with the various forms of resistance and backlash in the realization of gender-sensitive human rights in peacebuilding.
Norm research in international relations (IR) will provide the theoretical framework for the pilot project, because it offers analytical concepts for the study of resistance, but also normative perspectives on forms of resistance, such as against liberal peacebuilding or against a liberal understanding of "gender." In particular, contestation research, but also more recent research on localization and norm antipreneurs and norm spoilers, offers interesting points of departure for understanding resistance and gender backlashes in peacebuilding. Therefore, the research question asks: How do key stakeholders who implement gender-sensitive human rights in peacebuilding deal with resistance and gender backlashes? Through a qualitative research design, data will be collected through document analysis and interviews of stakeholders (practitioners of NGOs and humanitarian organizations, government officials and academics) with the aim to identify case studies fur further indebt research on a local level. The pilot project draws on rich research findings from norms research, feminist critique of liberal peacebuilding and recommendations of alternative strategies, as well as feminist policy recommendations of dealing with anti-gender movements and gender backlash. The pilot project aims to deductively draw policy recommendations from the different feminist research approaches, but also to proceed inductively by asking stakeholders about their strategies for dealing with resistance.